Superman II (1980)
Starring: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Hallaran, Valerie Perrine, Marc McClure
Directed by: Richard Lester with Richard Donner (uncredited)
A little over a year ago, I revisited the original Superman movie and found it to be lacking. It bored me, and was pretty silly. Christopher Reeve worked wonders with what he was given, and was easily the highlight of a movie that surprised me in how badly it aged.
So why did I bother watching the sequel? The easiest answer is it seems that Bryan Singer‘s new Superman Returns is a loose sequel to Superman II, taking place five years after the events in the 1980 film. Basically, the continuity established in the first two movies will serve as a vague history for the new movie. From what I remember, Singer is wise to ignore the next two movies in this series, but, after re-watching the first two, I’d have gone the Batman Begins route and ignored the previous movies altogether. It’s been over 25 years, I’m sure no one would mind. Plus, these films are much worse than anything Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher ever put out. (That, and isn’t it a dead giveaway when Superman returns to Earth after five years away, and so does Clark Kent? I guess I should save this for the review of the new movie).
The other reasons why I had hope for Superman II is that it wouldn’t be burdened by having to tell the origin story of Supes, which was the most boring part of the original, and it had Terence Stamp yelling “SON OF JAR-EL, KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!!” Sadly, I didn’t know that the production of this film was completely messed up, or I probably wouldn’t have bothered. The film was originally filmed at the same time as the original by Richard Donner to be a direct sequel. Then, Marlon Brando sued the studio over his percentage of the first film’s profits, so his scenes had to be cut out of the second movie. The producers of the film wanted it to be more campy, which led to disagreements with Donner, and his removal from the film (replaced by Richard Lester). Gene Hackman refused to re-shoot his work with Lester, meaning Lex Luthor’s role is shrunk, and his re-shoots are done by a body double. Lester then shoehorned his more comedic scenes with Donner’s more dramatic scenes, and had a beefier Reeve and Margot Kidder sporting a new haircut re-shoot scenes.
Essentially, it’s a movie at battle with itself, done on the quick and cheap (another reason for Donner’s dismissal was that the movie was coming in over budget), splitting its tone between Donner’s vision and Lester’s jokes. Not that I have a problem with it sullying Donner’s vision, I thought the first one sucked too, but it does help explain why a lot of the scenes were obviously dubbed (not kung fu obvious dubbing, but obvious nonetheless), and why some things, like how Superman gets his powers back make no sense. But, no matter who was directing what scene, most of the movie sucked.
The whole thing is just too stupid to be taken seriously. The movie gives us French cops speaking with really bad English accents, Luthor with his bumbling sidekick (Ned Beatty), Superman giving up his powers in his first date with Lois, and ridiculously over-the-top product placement. It’s one of those films that you’ll love if you love stupid, cheesy movies. It invents powers for Kryptonians as it needs them (as if the powers they’re already known to have aren’t enough), does most of the scenes in front of blue screens (painfully obviously, although it was made 28 years ago so it deserves a bit of a break), makes space shuttles out of gold tinfoil, employs really clunky dialogue, the works. Sadly, I’m not the kind of person who has fun watching bad movies, so I had to impatiently wait it out.
There’s a few good things about the movie, which will explain why I don’t give it zero stars. One, Reeve is still on point as both Clark and Superman (well, as on point as the movie will allow). Two, battling three villains as powerful as him makes Superman more interesting. Three, the way Lois Lane figures out that Clark is Superman, and then Clark convinces her otherwise is a fun bit of cat and mouse, that respects Lois as someone who would figure it out. Four, Terence Stamp says not only “Come to me, son of Jor-El! KNEEL before ZOD!!”, but also “And now… finally. Take my hand. Swear eternal loyalty… to Zod!” Wouldn’t it be cool if you could end all your sentence with ZOD!!! It’d be even cooler if he said “Snootchie Bootchies” after it.
Sadly… the rest sucked. So says… ZOD!!